Bulldogs hopeful despite inexperienced young team

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 25, 2000

The 1999-2000 season was a successful one for Natchez High School’s varsity boys basketball team and head coach Mike Martin, and in more ways than one.

Natchez went 24-9 last season, the tenth time in 11 seasons dating back to 1989-90 that a Bulldogs team won 20 or more games in a season, won the Division 6-5A Tournament championship and advanced to the South State 5A tournament, winning a first-round game before before being eliminated after dropping two straight games.

Will the 2000-2001 Natchez Bulldogs be able to match or better that success?

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Probably not, especially considering that Natchez lost six seniors from last year’s squad, including leading scorer David Haywood, who averaged 23 points a game.

However, coach Martin said this year’s team is not in a rebuilding year.

&uot;I don’t get into all that rebuilding stuff at high school,&uot; he said. &uot;Those 23 points a game are huge. We’re going to have two or three players step up.&uot;

Two key players returning from last season’s team are senior guard Jamal Bouldin, who averaged 14 points per game, and junior forward Vasshun Newborne, who averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds per game and won the rebounding title last season.

With some members of the basketball team still playing football, coach Martin said he is not sure who will fill the other positions.

&uot;Inexperience is the one part of this team that I am concerned with,&uot; he said.

&uot;Our division is as good as anyone’s in basketball in Mississippi,&uot; he added. &uot;Jim Hill has everyone returning, three mentioned as All-State and they are hosting the tournament, so they feel good about themselves. Provine always feels good about themselves. Forest Hill has good athletes.&uot;

He then said the one area of his team he likes is its work ethic.

&uot;So far at practice they’ve been unselfish and focused and they work hard,&uot; he said. &uot;I think they’re a good bunch to be with.&uot;

As far as winning the regular season district title and defending the district tournament title, Martin said it will be a challenge.

&uot;That’s why we’re here and that’s why we play the game. I think our chances are as good as anybody. I wouldn’t coach any other way.&uot;

He said that the top contending teams in Division 6-5A this season will be Natchez, Forest Hill, Jim Hill and Provine.

&uot;All the sportswriters are picking Jim Hill way up there, but we’re not going to sit back and concede anything to them,&uot; he said. &uot;Provine was picked to go to State last year and didn’t make it out of the district. Anybody can win this district.&uot;

He also said that this year’s team does not feel the pressure of duplicating the success that the ’99-’00 Bulldogs had.

&uot;These kids are ready for the challenge,&uot; he said.